Torture in Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib

Posted on August 23, 2011

In times of war, nations and individuals can sometimes resort to inhumane treatment of their enemy, which is why there are international conventions on the rights of prisoners. However, in 2004 photos and evidence of torture in the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib were revealed to the public by CBS News and The New Yorker[1]. In the same year, three British detainees were released from the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and revealed further torture and abuse at the hands of United States military personnel[2].

Combating the International Sex Industry

Posted on August 3, 2011

There is no doubt that prostitution and the sex industry in Thailand are extensive and well established. However, the Thai industry is not unique nor does it function solely within its own borders, but rather relies on an international sex trade that crosses national borders and violates human rights along racial, socioeconomic, gender, and age lines. The trafficking of women and children is driven by profits from the sex trade and leads to violations of the right to freedom from violence, and to pursue free and healthy lives.

Human Rights and Hurricane Katrina

Posted on July 21, 2011

Hurricane Katrina is considered one of the deadliest and most expensive natural disasters in United States history with more than 1,300 people killed. The many images of desperate survivors, floating bodies, and crowded shelters reached the international media and revealed a shocking level of abject poverty and income inequity that also exists in the world’s richest nation[1]. While many human rights violations occurred in the aftermath of Katrina, the horrible situation that resulted in New Orleans was a culmination of systemic discrimination based on such factors as race and socioeconomic status that existed in New Orleans well before the hurricane.

The Unfinished GLBT Revolution

Posted on January 13, 2011

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, violent protests and demonstrations erupted around the gay bar the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York. These riots came to be known as the Stonewall Riots and the spark for the “Gay Rights Revolution” that has continued in various forms until today. Recently this revolution for civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgenders (GLBT) has gained much attention in the United States and the movement itself appears to have manifested globally in the fight for legalization of same-sex marriage.

Navigating the Taiwan Strait

Posted on January 2, 2011

The situation in the Taiwan Strait has been a central point of disagreement in relations between the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) and the United States of America (U.S.), for which the U.S. has had to clarify its position numerous times since the civil war between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang in 1949. International relations have dramatically changed since the Communiqué between the P.R.C. and the U.S. of 1972, 1979, and 1982 were released.

Guatemala-An Ambassador's Report

Posted on December 6, 2010

Guatemala was a part of the one of the greatest civilizations of the world, the Mayan civilization that existed in Honduras, El Salvador, and into Mexico. In 1524 the Spanish Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado arrived in Guatemala and the modern history of Guatemala followed a path not uncommon in Latin America after Spanish conquest. Alvarado was a particularly brutal Conquistador and under his rule natives were suppressed and disease and hard labor reduced their population by ninety percent in less than a century[1].

Paris After the Liberation, 1944-1949

Posted on November 22, 2010

In Paris After the Liberation, 1944-1949, Anthony Beevor and Artemis Cooper address the city of Paris, its people, and all concerned parties after Paris is liberated from the Nazi occupation of World War II. Much attention is paid to the divisions and tensions that develop as a result of the turbulent time of the occupation, and particular attention is given to the French Communist Party. Diaries and personal accounts were used as sources, which provide many intimate details but at the same time limit the breadth and focus of the work.

Romero-The Majority Controlled By a Minority

Posted on October 6, 2010

In the film ‘Romero’, we are presented with a weak and feeble Oscar Romero who seems to be aware of the struggles of the El Salvadorans but feels it is not the church’s duty to become involved in politics. However, as the violence and repression of the military escalates and the oligarchy of which he was a part shows indifference to the suffering of the campesino population, Romero undergoes an emotional awakening.

Coming of Age in Africa

Posted on September 27, 2010

The continent of Africa was carved up among European powers in the General Act of Berlin in 1885, in effect sealing the fate of Nigeria who would be ruled by Britain for many decades. Wole Soyinka was born into British colonial rule just before World War Two and grew up in a fairly wealthy and educated Nigerian family, receiving a college education both in Nigeria and Britain and was the first African to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986.

Was Hiroshima and Nagasaki Necessary?

Posted on September 13, 2010

The decision by President Truman to use the atomic bomb against Japan in August, 1945 was made without drawing on all the facts and alternatives available at the time. Proponents of his decision argue that the bombing brought the war to a swift end, saving the lives of thousands of Allied soldiers. They criticize opponents of this fateful decision for being too removed to understand or pass judgment and tend to illicit an emotional response in defending Truman’s position.

Popular Education-Addressing Social Inequalities

Posted on September 8, 2010

“Education as the exercise of domination stimulates the credulity of students, with the ideological intent (often not perceived by educators) of indoctrinating them to adapt to the world of oppression.” – Paulo Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed The tenets of popular education are well-defined in Friere’s most famous work, and although educators in El Salvador may not have had direct access to Pedagogy of the Oppressed the education system they developed was in line with his proposed pedagogy.

The Motivation of a Suicide Bomber

Posted on August 31, 2010

The Arab-Israeli conflict has a long and complicated history, with massacres and violent acts committed by both sides and each with their own cultural, religious, and personal motivations. The Palestinians and the Israelis have valid, but conflicting interests in the area and brokering a long lasting peace deal has been unachievable. The conflict has been characterized by military incursions, forced resettlement, revenge killings, and terrorist attacks, including the more recent use of suicide bombings.

Reflections on the Cultural Revolution

Posted on August 23, 2010

Personal reflections can reveal some of the most intimate details from history, but as they involve personal perspective they often only reveal one part of the story. In China, Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution affected millions of Chinese, particularly intellectuals and their families, as evidenced in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress and _Wild Swan_s. Both works are either partly or solely based on the personal experiences of the authors, dealing with the period in their life affected by the Cultural Revolution.

The Church in Latin America

Posted on August 19, 2010

In order to understand the behavior of the conquistadors and Spanish colonizers in the Americas, one must also understand the atmosphere of Spain at the time of Columbus’ discovery. Remaining Arabs and 150,000 Jews were expelled from Spain and Queen Isabella had become one of the chief advocates of the inquisition. Catholicism had been united with the battle to spread Spanish power throughout the world. With this knowledge and religious fervor in hand, the Spanish colonizers entered South America with both the Crown and God behind them as they plundered the land and decimated the Indian population.

Democracy Sometimes Leads to Totalitarianism

Posted on August 13, 2010

The emergence of liberalism was a long and slow process evolving from various revolutions such as Protestantism, industrialization, scientific development, the Enlightenment, and the American and French revolutions. With each phase came reform and as citizens challenged the status quo, new ideas and concepts regarding society, government, and economics materialized. The main principles that have come to define liberalism are individual liberty, private enterprise, and democratic government. Springing from these main principles are modern notions of equality, freedom of speech and press, religious toleration, and secular society.

Lessons from the Cold War

Posted on August 10, 2010

Emerging from the terrible destruction of World War Two the world faced a new form of conflict and tension with the advent of the Cold War, primarily between the two superpowers the Soviet Union and the United States. The initial phase of this war began immediately following the end of WWII in 1946, extending through to the mid 1950s with the stalemate of the Korean War and a change of leadership in the Soviet.

The Colonial Economy of Spanish America

Posted on August 3, 2010

Throughout the colonial period of Spanish America, the main focus of the Spanish Crown was on developing the mining industry at the expense of agricultural production for export. Agricultural development was not consistent within or between the various viceroyalties and with the exception of Venezuela and Cuba, most agriculture was on a subsistence level or developed independently of the Crown. The clear objective of the conquistadors was acquiring precious metals such as gold and silver, and this objective also suited the Crown who saw vast sums of silver flow into its coffers.

The Bookseller of Kabul

Posted on July 26, 2010

Åsne Seierstad’s international bestseller The Bookseller of Kabul is one of those rare pieces of literature that artfully bridges the gap between storytelling and recording history. As a source, her book may not satisfy the strict requirements of empirical primary sources, but it certainly is an important source of social, cultural and women’s history in Afghanistan. Although controversy has surfaced since its publication and the real bookseller has refuted many of its details, Seierstad has written such a balanced and objective account that it is difficult to completely discount her work as fictional or untrustworthy.

Legacies of the French Revolution

Posted on July 22, 2010

The French Revolution beginning in 1789, ushered in a new era for European society and politics. While the period was marked by social upheaval, political uncertainty, radicalism, and mass terror, both the direct and indirect consequences of the revolution would have a profound effect on the development of Europe and ultimately the modern world. It challenged the traditional social structure, called for equality for all men, demanded protection of human rights, and would inspire future revolutionaries and movements against unjust authorities.

I Want to be Australia's First Female Prime Minister

Posted on July 2, 2010

I can remember as a child in Australia, wondering why the Prime Minister was always some old, boring man. I thought maybe women somehow were not allowed into the position until I discussed it with my parents. When I discovered it was just because no one had voted one in yet, I was shocked. I was also slightly excited by the possibility that maybe I could one day be the first female PM.

'Post Racial Society'? I Doubt It

Posted on January 1, 2010

There is no shortage of reporting, analysis, criticism, and outrage at Harry Reid’s comments which were recently released in a book. Reid was quoted as saying Obama was “light-skinned” and speaks with “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” As usual, the media tends to over exaggerate and sensationalize any slightly controversial story in order to attract viewers. This is no exception. Leaving aside the reaction and hype, the important question to ask is whether or not there was any truth to Reid’s comments.

The IMF: Reform vs Dismantling

Posted on October 1, 2009

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was originally established with the purpose of promoting stability within a system where the U.S. dollar replaced the Gold Standard following World War II. However, in the 1970s this system was abandoned for a floating currency system and so the IMF was forced to evolve into a new role. Now the IMF conducts research into economic matters, provides policy advice to members and makes loans available to countries with balance of payments difficulties, among other things.

Reviewing the WTO: Mixed Results

Posted on September 2, 2009

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) primary purpose in international trade is mediating disputes. Its power originates from agreements made between voluntary member countries and relies on the participation of its members. Considering its status in the international community it is important to analyze claims that the WTO favors developed nations and multinational corporations at the expense of developing nations, the environment, and laborers. Critics charge the WTO as being undemocratic, non-transparent, and valuing free trade above the environment and labor protection.

Baader Meinhof: Romanticizing Terror

Posted on September 1, 2009

The title of the documentary ‘Baader-Meinhof: In Love With Terror’ suggests a notion of romanticism surrounding the violent actions of the Baader-Meinhof Group or Red Army Faction (RAF). This could definitely be said for its main leader, Andreas Baader. From interviews withformer RAF members and research into the group, it appears that the transition from disgruntled ideologists to a full-blown terrorist group largely sprang from Baader’s love of violence. Until he met the young and passionate Gudrun Ennslin, Baader was a ‘juvenile delinquent’ somewhat apathetic and unconcerned with revolutionary thought.

Aum Shinrikyo: A Shadow in Japan's History

Posted on August 6, 2009

Since the defeat of Japanese imperialism in World War II, terrorist activity has been instigated by radical groups from both the far left and right of Japanese society. On the left, the Japanese Red Army committed numerous attacks both domestically and abroad throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Although there is not one single identifiable group on the conservative right, there have also been numerous attacks from this quarter, with some groups growing in popularity and violence in more recent years.

Protectionism Hurts the Poor

Posted on August 5, 2009

Protectionists continually return to the argument that protections in the form of tariffs, quotas, subsidies, procurement policies and antidumping regulations save jobs and keep the working and middle-class living standards from declining. However, such arguments ignore the actual percentage of job loss due to import competition and fail to take into account the effect that limiting imports can have on jobs in other satellite and export industries. One of the more damaging consequences of protectionism is that it raises prices on certain necessary commodities and so forces the less wealthy in society to spend a higher percentage of their income on purchasing basic goods to support their families.

Fear Mongerers On Health Care Reform: What Would Jesus Do?

Posted on August 4, 2009

Fear mongering appears to be one of the favorite past times of the conservative right. There have been so many amazing claims going around recently about proposed health care reform, that I thought it would be an interesting exercise to document some of them. Here are some excellent examples. “You folks review with me a little bit as I recall Stalin in the 1920s issued about 20 Million end of life orders for his fellow Russians.

North Korean Visit Shows Strength, Not Weakness

Posted on August 3, 2009

The latest rallying point for the right against the Democratic government appears to be Bill Clinton’s visit to North Korea to secure the release of two American citizens from North Korean prison. Some are claiming a link between Clinton and the Obama administration and state that this was a diplomatic visit officially organized by the US government. They also claim that the visit showed weakness on America’s part. First of all, Mr Clinton was actually asked by former vice president Al Gore, who employed the two Korean women, to go to North Korea and ask for their release.

Conservatives Take Aim at Cash for Clunkers

Posted on August 2, 2009

The government’s ‘clash for clunkers’ program attracted a small amount of attention before it was launched last week. However, after it began there was a much larger response than anticipated and although the government had allowed 90 days for the program, it is believed the program will be depleted of funds by the end of this week. Now the ‘Cars Allowance Rebate System’ or CARS, is all over the media and is being highly criticized by right leaning and conservative media outlets.

Film Review: Good Morning, Night

Posted on August 2, 2009

‘Good Morning, Night’ is based on the events surrounding Aldo Moro’s kidnapping and murder by the Brigate Rosse (BR) or Red Brigades in 1978. However, it is important to highlight that this film is not strictly a factual representation of the event. In director Marco Bellocchio’s own words “Since I’m not a historian, I’m not interested in the factual truth, but more in telling a story in a new and unconventional way.

Globalization in Reality

Posted on July 6, 2009

Critics will argue that globalization is exploiting children and workers in developing countries, creating inequalities in the distribution of wealth and outsourcing jobs. However, the overall benefits of globalization in the preceding decades far outweigh many of these perceived dangers and it can be argued that such statements have little basis in reality. Globalization means a decrease in trade barriers and regulations and an increase in international trade which in turn stimulates economic growth.

China Bullies Japan and Australia Over Uighur Visit

Posted on July 5, 2009

The Uighur community in China was brought to the world’s attention recently when more than 140 were killed in clashes between rioters and police. Prominent Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer now claims that nearly 10,000 Uighurs went missing in one night of the riots. Kadeer is the president ofthe World Uighur Congress who was once one of the five richest people in China. She began to speak out against the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uighur community and was detained by authorities.

Policy Brief to the President: Islam, Terrorism, and the Middle East

Posted on July 4, 2009

Terrorism is by no means a new concept, occurring in one form or another throughout the world for many hundreds of years. However, in modern history we have seen an alarming trend towards religious terrorism, particularly since September 11, and an increasing association of terrorism with Islam. This modern conflict has been framed by some academics as a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ between the Islamic and Western Worlds. Such reasoning has been disputed and other theories have been put forward, such as a clash of ‘identities.

Why Are We Getting Fatter?

Posted on July 3, 2009

A recent article in Time titled “Why Are Southerners So Fat?" finally sums up very well what I have been saying for years regarding obesity. The article compares obesity rates and lifestyles between Northern and Southern States in America, which reveals some very interesting points regarding the reasons behind obesity. First of all I would like to point out that rising obesity rates are not isolated to the USA. Australia has experienced alarming increases in recent years and is almost on par with US rates.

Clinton vs. North Korea: Playground Politics

Posted on July 2, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent comments comparing North Korea’s missile tests to the behavior of an adolescent seeking attention may have been some what apt, but they have not surprisingly drawn criticism from North Korea. Hitting back, a foreign ministry spokesman from NK commented that Clinton sometimes appeared as a “primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping." They further stated that Clinton is “unaware of elementary etiquette in the international community.

Justifying the Decision for War in Iraq

Posted on July 2, 2009

One of the most contentious issues of this decade was the decision by the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. Despite much speculation, media commentary, and official government statements, the reasons for this decision remain clouded in obscurity and ambiguity. From Republicans to Democrats and conservatives to liberals, there is little agreement regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq. It is evident there were both official reasons as presented to the public and unofficial reasons in going to war.

Manipulating Young Tamils in Sri Lanka

Posted on May 3, 2009

Youth are among the most impressionable and easily influenced in society. Malli in the film ‘The Terrorist’ is one such youth who found herself fighting in the violent separatist and terrorist organization the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), more commonly known as Tamil Tigers. Malli and her group come from the Northern and Eastern provinces in Sri Lanka and are fighting for independence from a majority Sinhalese Government, in a civil war that has lasted over twenty years.

The Hypocrisy of Targeted Killings

Posted on May 2, 2009

The opening scenes of ‘Munich’ are chilling and bloody and Director Steven Spielberg confronts the audience immediately with the overwhelming violence that characterizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film focuses primarily on the Israeli response to the 1972 Munich massacre where the Palestinian organization Black September took Israeli Olympic athletes hostage. The debacle ended in the deaths of seventeen people, including the hostages, terrorists and a German policeman. Operation Wrath of God followed in which Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, executed clandestine operations into Europe to actively seek out and assassinate those linked to the Munich Massacre.

'In the Name of Identity'

Posted on May 1, 2009

Religious fundamentalist groups and the terrorist acts they commit are on the rise around the globe. Contrary to popular belief in the United States, such religious extremism is not limited to Islamic terrorism in the Middle East but has also been found right here in the US in the form of a Christian Identity movement and its affiliates. Amin Maalouf argues in his work ‘In the Name of Identity’ that the origins of such extremism spring from a form of identity crisis and that faith provides a common bond which disenfranchised members can rally around.

Algerian Civil Unrest

Posted on April 2, 2009

Although the violence depicted in ‘Rachida’ primarily originated from the civil war in Algeria in the 1990s, conflict has a long and complicated history in Algeria. Numerous empires have made their footprint in Algeria, including Rome, the Byzantines, Arabs, Spain and Ottoman Turks. The most significant impact on Algeria in the modern era was the invasion and colonization of their country by France. Since the Algerian War for Independence from France there has been a Civil War which was followed by religious fundamentalist terrorism, leaving Algerian society deeply traumatized by incessant violence.

Argentina's Dirty War: 'The Official Story'

Posted on April 1, 2009

‘The Official Story’ is a masterfully crafted film that presents an alternative perspective to the Argentine military junta’s ‘Dirty War’ that began in the 1970s and left 30,000 people ‘disappeared’. Those people are los desaparecidos, taken from their homes by the military government and their death squads because they were viewed as subversives or terrorists. While there were small terrorist groups such as Montoneros, the vast majority of victims were simply students, workers or other relatively harmless citizens who disagreed with the regime.

Film Review: The Dancer Upstairs

Posted on March 3, 2009

‘The Dancer Upstairs’ is primarily a love story amidst the violent and complex political climate of a Latin American country. Although the specific country where the film is set is not stated, there are clear similarities between the film and the Marxist group Sendero Luminoso’s (Shining Path) attempt at a Maoist revolution in Peru. The film’s revolutionary leader Ezekiel suffered from psoriasis, was captured in a ballet studio after a police search through the household trash and was displayed to the public in a cage and prison garb just as Sendero’s leader Abimael Guzmán was in 1992.

Gay Marriage and the Bible

Posted on March 2, 2009

In December 2008, Newsweek published a cover article on how the bible does not outlaw gay marriage and how it cannot be used by conservatives to oppose gay marriage. While Newsweek should be commended for running such a high profile article defending gay marriage and the bible I think it really misses the point on gay marriage. America likes to hold itself up as a model democracy that separates religion from politics and protects the rights of all regardless of their faith.

War on Drugs in Columbia

Posted on March 1, 2009

In ‘Plan Columbia: Cashing in on the Drug War Failure’, directors Ungerman and Brohy present a poignant and well-rounded documentary dealing with the United States’ involvement in the drug problem in Columbia. Through interviews with various parties in Columbia and the United States they are quite successful in portraying the political climate in Columbia, and the complex situation surrounding the drug trade. While it is clear that the directors are not advocates of Plan Columbia they were careful to include all concerned parties including government officials from Columbia and the US, military and paramilitary commanders, FARC-ELN guerilla fighters, and most importantly local Columbians.

Honestly . . . Who Throws a Shoe?

Posted on December 5, 2008

As I’m sure you are all very aware of by now, George W. Bush was the latest victim of a shoe throwing attack. This incident occurred at a press conference held in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday evening as President Bush said farewell to Iraq. As the President was speaking, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at Bush who successfully ducked for cover. It was an obvious statement from one unhappy Iraqi to the Bush administration.

Response to Mumbai Attacks – Invade New Zealand???

Posted on December 4, 2008

After the Mumbai attacks in India, local Indians came out in protest last week. They protested against the Indian Government’s mismanagement of the terrorist attacks and called for war against Pakistan. While the Indian Government has not openly blamed the Pakistani Government for the terrorist attacks they have certainly hinted at it, calling for swift action to curb terrorist violence. Whatever the official stance of the Indian Government it would seem the Indian public has already made up it’s mind as to who is responsible.

A Neverending Debt – Satisfying the Minorities

Posted on December 3, 2008

The latest addition to Obama’s future cabinet this week was New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who will be the next Secretary of Commerce. This seems to be a wise choice and I believe he will be a strong and loyal ally of Obama, as exhibited by Richardson when he publicly switched his support from Hillary Clinton to Obama in the primary campaign. What alarmed me when this hit the news was the reaction from the Hispanic community.

Respect Your Elders

Posted on December 2, 2008

Does this look like the face of a criminal? A thief, pickpocket or embezzler? Well according to latest reports, crime is on the increase among the elderly in Japan. Since 2002, the crime rate among Japanese people over the age of 65 has doubled. While the crimes being committed are generally not too serious, it is a surprising and alarming finding. About one fifth of the Japanese population are aged over 65 and with the baby boomer generation entering this group within the next five years, a further rise in crime is expected.

The Bush Philosophy – Living By One's Principles

Posted on December 2, 2008

“The thing that’s important for me is to get home and look in that mirror and say, I did not compromise my principles. And I didn’t.” – ABC News Interview with Charlie Gibson 12/01/08 One begs to ask the question, what if your principles included raping and murdering young children? Or more realistically, invading a country using false intelligence and justifying the resulting deaths of over 4000 US soldiers and 90,000 Iraqi civilians as necessary in the defense of democracy and safety of American citizens.

A Truly Black, Black Friday

Posted on November 1, 2008

The exact origin of the term ‘Black Friday’ appears unclear. One theory refers to the excessive traffic and overcrowding that occurs as consumers flock to the stores to catch the bargains in stores that follow Thanksgiving, creating traffic jams and congestion. The other theory draws on traditional accounting methods which use the color black to report profits in the clear, which is what usually happens to stores in the holiday season.